Big Drop Brewing Co Launches in the United States
Working in business development for his law firm, Rob Fink spent a lot of time in pubs and restaurants entertaining clients. In his early 30s, drinking for a good portion of the afternoon was fun, once he had kids he knew his habits had to change — but he liked beer.
“I’m in these pubs for five to six hours sometimes and we’re talking and doing a little bit of business and I want to drink something,” he said. “I don’t want coffee or a Coke — I want a beer but you can’t drink that much and then head home and take care of your baby.”
At the time in England, where Fink lived, there was only one non-alcoholic beer option and that was Beck’s Blue. Fink who liked craft beer and saw all the styles the European pubs would offer wondered why there wasn’t a variety of good non-alcoholic options.
With his friend James Kindred, the two launched Big Drop Brewing Co. in 2016 with their first beer being released in November.
“What if I could do for non-alcoholic beer what craft beer did for beer,” he said. “We could make it interesting and give people choices. Let’s give non-alcoholic beer a little love and attention. People thought I was a complete moron. They said I should just brew alcoholic beer but there were already some great products on there.”
Non-alcoholic beer has begun to grow in popularity which isn’t surprising to Fink. While Big Drop was ahead of the game being one of the first breweries solely focused on non-alcoholic beer, the big beer companies are beginning to push their offerings. Lagunitas, Heineken and Budweiser are just a few names in big beer that have released non-alcoholic beer.
But there are also several other breweries that also focus solely on non-alcoholic beer. Athletic Brewing and Hairless Dog are two that have seen a rise in popularity.
“If you ask the really big strategic brewing companies if people will be consuming more or less alcohol in 10, 20, 30 years’ time they’ll say less,” Fink said. “That doesn’t seem to be too controversial. Overall people will drink less alcohol. The big players are looking at it the same way I was looking at it five years ago. It’s about options and choices, they’re not fools. They’re looking at trends and thinking about where this is going to be in 20 years’ time.”
So in 2016 with their first beer released, a Stout, Big Drop was ready to expand their portfolio and bring the variety of craft beer to non-alcoholic beer.
“There was no such thing as a non-alcoholic stout,” Fink said. “That’s my preferred style of beer and I couldn’t find one and so I wanted to bring one out as our first beer. The reaction was very favorable from beer writers and people in the community.”
Today the brewery has a lineup of core beers, a variety of seasonal offerings, and even do collaborations. In the last four years, Big Drop has made 25 different non-alcoholic beers. The only difference in Big Drop’s beer is that all of their beers have an ABV of .5%.
The growth has been incredible for Big Drop the last couple of years. The brewery grew 80% year-over-year from 2019-20. Their beer is all brewed by contract breweries and is being made in Europe, Australia and they just entered the North American market last month. They partnered with Great Central Brewing Company, a contract brewery in Chicago, to make their first beers to be served stateside.
“Great Central got it,” Fink said. “There are two types of people in the world, people who understand what we’re doing and people who think we’re crazy. Great Central got us. We did trial brews with them and they could brew the beer we wanted to release.”
Right now there will be three beers available in the U.S. Galactic a milk Stout, Pine Trail their Pale Ale and Paradiso their Citra IPA are now available but Fink said more will make their way out of Great Central over time.
As for the continued interest in non-alcoholic beer even after Dry January, Fink says he sees there being more and more interest in the style because people want to drink a beer that tastes good, but they don’t necessarily need the alcohol.
“I am the consumer,” he said. “I’m 42, I have three kids, I do a bit of exercise. I like craft beer. I like alcohol, but every now and then I want a beer that doesn’t have any alcohol in it.”